Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chocolate Turtle Cake - It's My 1st Blogiversary!

Yep, its my Blogiversary! Exactly one year ago today, I published my first blog post. That is so hard to believe! These past 12 months have seemed to fly by so quickly. I've had such a blast having my own blog, but without you all I probably wouldn't have kept it up. So thank you for taking the time to read it! It means so much to me : ) Heres to many more years of fun in the blogosphere!

This is actually a cake I made for my mom's birthday, but I thought this would be an opportune time to share the recipe. It is a little bit involved, but totally doable if you tackle it one step at a time : )

Super rich, super chocolatey, super delicious! Definitely a crowd pleaser. Yum!

Chocolate Turtle Cake

Serves 12

3 Cake Layers (recipe below)

Caramel Filling (recipe below)

Chocolate Filling (recipe below)

Caramel Frosting (recipe below)

Chocolate Ganache (recipe below)

Place one cake layer on a cake stand. Using caramel frosting, pipe a frosting border around the top edge of the cake to make a barrier (so the filling won't leak out). Spread half of the caramel filling evenly over cake. Pipe half of the chocolate filling evenly over caramel filling, spreading it out to the edges of the cake. Top with second cake layer and repeat the process. Top with last cake layer. Frost entire cake with caramel frosting, reserving some to use as garnish. Slowly pour ganache over top of cake and allow to drip down the sides. Allow ganache to set. Pipe decorative rosettes of caramel frosting on top of cake, and place pecan halves in the center of each rosette. Enjoy!

For the cake:

Adapted from this recipe

1 1/3 cups cake flour (or 6.5 oz Soft White wheat flour + 2 tbls cornstarch)

1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa (I used "natural" processed)

1 cup sugar (or honey sucanat)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk, divided

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease three 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.

Lightly beat eggs, vanlla, and half of milk in a bowl. Mix until incorporated. Set aside.

Equip your mixer with whisk attachment and sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt into the mixer bowl. Add butter and remaining milk. Beat on medium speed until smooth (about 4 minutes), scraping bowl as needed.

The mixture may start out rough looking, then turn thick and paste-like. After beating, add one-third of the egg mixture and mix on medium for two minutes. Add another third and beat for two minutes (the mixture will start to increase in volume). Add last third of the egg mixture, and beat for two minutes more.

Divide batter evenly between pans, (I use a kitchen scale to do this), and level out smooth. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back slightly when touched in the center, and a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely in pans, (the cake should pull away form the sides of the pan as it cools, but if it doesn't, just run a knife around the edges to release). Once cooled, remove from pans and peel parchment paper off.

For the caramel filling:

2/3 cup dulce de leche (homemade* or store-bought)

1/3 cup chopped pecans

Stir together dulce de leche and pecans. Set aside until needed.

*To make homemade: Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until it thickens and turns golden brown. (This might take up to an hour). (Reserve 1/3 cup to use in the frosting, and use the rest for the filling. If you're a little short, don't worry about it - you don't have to have exactly 2/3 cup).

For the chocolate filling:

Adapted from this recipe

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

1/3 cup half-and-half

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter. Mix in cocoa powder, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar. Add half-and-half. Beat until creamy. Set aside until needed.

For the caramel frosting:

Adapted from this recipe

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup dulce de leche

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream butter and sugar on low. Add cream, vanilla, and salt. Beat until there are no lumps. Scrap down bowl. Add dulce de leche. Beat until incorporated. If frosting is too thick, add a little bit more cream. Set aside until needed.

For the chocolate ganache:

Adapted from this recipe

8 oz. semi-sweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream

Make ganache after the cake is frosted and ready to go. Place chocolate in heatproof bowl. Pour cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour cream over chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, (if it thickens too much it will be difficult to pour over the cake). Slowly pour over cake, letting it drip down the sides. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dainty Sandwich Cookies

I absolutely love these treats - decadent chocolate sandwiched between two crisp, buttery cookies. Deliciousness! And the sprinkling of salt and sugar on the tops? Pure genius! It really brings out the flavors of the cookie.

These are surprisingly easy to whip up. I like to roll my dough out between sheets of plastic wrap - I just find it to be easier. However, the dough is easy to work with, so feel free to roll them out strait on the countertop. Either way, roll some out soon : )

Dainty Sandwich Cookies

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Makes about 2 dozen, 1 1/2-inch cookies

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or 12.5 oz Soft White wheat flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

scant 1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon poppy seeds

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature

2/3 cup brown sugar, packed (or honey sucanat)

2 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon big flaky sea salt (optional)

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (optional) (or honey sucanat)

6-7 ounces (I used 12 oz) dark, semi-sweet, or milk chocolate, chopped

additional equipment: 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter

Preheat oven to 350°, with the racks in the top third of the oven.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds in a medium bowl. Set aside

In a separate bowl, beat butter until fluffy and creamy (by hand or with an electric mixer). Mix in sugar and scrape down bowl. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture by hand, being careful not to overmix. If dough seems dry, add the milk. Dump out dough on counter and knead it a few times so it comes together. Divide and form dough into four discs. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge until firm, about 30 minutes.

Roll out dough 1/8-inch thick on a floured surface (or between two pieces of plastic wrap). Stamp out using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter. Place 1-inch apart on parchment lined cookie sheets. Place in fridge or freezer until well-chilled. Sprinkle with a small pinch of turbinado sugar and sea salt.

Bake for about 7 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. When cookies are cool, and you're ready to assemble the cookies, melt chocolate in double boiler, (or in a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water). Spread 1/2 teaspoon of the melted chocolate (I spread 1 tsp) on one cookie, and spread out almost to the edge. Top with another cookie and press together until chocolate is nearly coming out. Repeat with the rest of the cookies. Allow chocolate to set before transferring to an airtight container. Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chocolate Cream Pie

Oh My Wow! I have made this pie many times, and it is SO scrumptious! Creamy, luscious, chocolatey, and light - absolutely delish!

The cream layer of this pie is actually based off of the Almond Cream Pie recipe (minus the almond, ha ha!). You can choose to leave in the cream cheese, or leave it out. I've tried both, and it is awesome either way. You can also substitute a chocolate crumb crust for the graham cracker crust (I've tried that too, and it gives it a nice touch!). Can you tell I'm in love with this recipe? Please give it a try - it is pure yumminess!

Chocolate Cream Pie

Serves 8-10

For the Homemade Crust (or you can use store-bought):

Adapted from this recipe

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar (or honey sucanat)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 4 tbls) butter, melted

For the Chocolate layer:

Adapted from this recipe

1 cup heavy whipping cream

8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons sugar (or honey sucanat)

2 egg yolks

For the Cream layer:

Adapted from this recipe

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3/4 cup powdered sugar

4 oz. cream cheese, softened (optional)*

To make crust: Mix together crumbs and sugar. Add butter and stir until thoroughly mixed. Press into bottom and up the sides of pie pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

To make chocolate layer: Beat whipping cream to stiff peaks. Set aside. Melt chocolate in microwave, or on stovetop. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. Cook until sugar is dissolved. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with a hand mixer (or whisk by hand). Slowly add sugar mixture while beating (or whisking). Continue beating for 1 minute. Add chocolate and stir until incorporated. Add one third of the whipped cream and mix well. Fold in remaining whipped cream, until evenly mixed. Pour into crust and smooth out. Place in the fridge while you make the top layer.

To make cream layer: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix until creamy. In a separate bowl whip the cream into stiff peaks. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until thoroughly incorporate. Gently spoon over chocolate layer and smooth out.

*I have made this recipe both with and without the cream cheese. It is great both ways! (If you'd like to make it without the cream cheese, just add the powdered sugar to the whipping cream and beat until the cream has formed stiff peaks, then proceed with the recipe. Its that easy!)

Chill pie for at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake

Have you ever heard of a "zebra cake"? It is achieved by alternately pouring chocolate and vanilla batter into your cake pan, giving the finished product a swirled design - quite lovely!

This recipe uses the same method, but swaps the chocolate batter for cinnamon batter. It makes for a treat that is both delicious and pretty - oh yeah!

Whip one of these up soon - you'll be glad you did! Yum...

Cinnamon-Swirl Coffee Cake

Adapted from this recipe

Makes one 9" coffee cake

4 eggs

1 cup sugar (or honey sucanat)

1 cup milk

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 10 oz Soft White wheat flour)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

Crumb Topping (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9" cake pan, and line with parchment. (I used a springform pan, so I didn't use parchment).

Mix together eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light and creamy. Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl Add to wet ingredients. Whisk to combine. Measure out just over two cups of the batter and place in a bowl. Add cinnamon and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.

Pour 1/4 cup of vanilla batter into the center of pan and allow to spread. Pour 1/4 cup of cinnamon batter on top, in the center of the vanilla batter (this will push the vanilla batter out more). Alternate between adding vanilla and cinnamon batters until all has been added. Top with crumb mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Mine took closer to 1 hour. Just make sure the toothpick comes out clean, and you'll be fine). Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Crumb Topping

Adapted from this recipe

1/3 cup granulated sugar (or honey sucanat)

1/3 cup dark brown sugar (or molasses sucanat)

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and still warm

1 3/4 cups cake flour (or 8 oz Soft White wheat flour + 3 tbls cornstarch)

In a medium bowl whisk together the sugars, cinnamon, salt, and flour (plus the cornstarch, if using wheat flour). Add butter and stir until mixture comes together like a dough. Break apart into large pea-sized pieces. Set aside until needed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vegetarian Zuppa Toscana Soup

Hot, hearty, and delicious - this soup is great! It is SO quick and easy to throw together, too.

You can serve this with parmesan cheese sprinkled on the top, alongside your favorite bread sticks...yummers!

Vegetarian Zuppa Toscana Soup

Adapted from this recipe

Serves 6-8

1 large diced white onion

2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or about 1 tbls)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 quarts (8 cups) vegetable or "no-chicken" broth

1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)

1 teaspoon (dried) sage

1 teaspoon (dried) thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 lb sliced Russet potatoes (or 3-4 large)

1 cup heavy cream (can use half-and-half or whole milk)

1/4 bunch (or 2 cups) kale, chopped

In a large pot, cook onions and garlic in olive oil over low-medium heat until onions are soft, about 15 minutes. Add broth, pepper flakes, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. When broth begins to boil, add potatoes. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Add cream and kale. Simmer for about 5 minutes, and serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Samoas Cupcakes

I know, right? Samoas cupcakes?!? Who has heard of such a thing? Better yet, who came up with such a thing? Someone I need to thank...because these are awesome!

A few simple touches really take these cupcakes to the next level. Try them soon, they are delicious!

Samoas Cupcakes

Adapted from this recipe

Makes 24

For the Cupcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 10 oz Soft White wheat flour)

3/4 cup natural cocoa powder

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 3/4 cups sugar (or honey sucanat)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coconut extract

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 cups milk

For the Caramel Frosting:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups packed brown sugar (or honey sucanat)

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

1/4 cup milk chocolate chips

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line muffin tin with papers.

Whisk together flour and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, and extracts until light and fluffy (at least 3-4 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down bowl as needed.

Turn mixer to low and add dry ingredients in three batches, alternately with the milk, until just combined.

Fill cupcake papers 1/2 full, dividing batter evenly. Bake for 20-22 minutes, rotate the pans halfway through. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack.

To to toast the coconut: Spread on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, stirring often, until evenly browned.

To make the frosting: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add salt and brown sugar. Cook until mixture begins to boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Stir in milk and return to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla. Cool for 30-40 minutes, or until lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Once the mixture is lukewarm, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar, and mix on low until combined. Turn up the speed to medium-high and beat for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Adjust the consistency of the frosting by adding a little more milk or powdered sugar, if needed.

Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes in a spiral design. (Start on the outer edge and work toward the center). Melt chocolate chips in microwave (for about 30 seconds) or on the stovetop, until drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cupcakes freehand, or place in a zip-top (or pastry) bag for more control, and drizzle over the tops. Garnish cupcakes with toasted coconut. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Almond Cream Pie

There are so many things going for this pie. It is light, creamy, and silky-smooth. The flavor is just awesome, and the homemade crust really takes it over the top. Yum...

The original recipe called for gelatin (to help it stabilize), but since I don't usually have any on hand, I tweaked the recipe so that I can leave it out. I really don't think it needs it anyhow, because it works just as well without it!

This recipe is definitely a keeper, I've made it countless times and its always a hit. Give it a try. Its quick, its easy, and its positively scrumptious!

Almond Cream Pie

Adapted from Paula Deen's Holiday Baking Magazine (2007)

Makes 1 (9") pie

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup chopped sliced almonds

3 tablespoons sugar (or honey sucanat)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons almond extract

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Garnish: toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine crumbs, almonds, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add melted butter. Stir until crumbly. Press in bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until browned. Cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add confectioners sugar and beat until creamy. Mix in extract. Set aside

Pour whipping cream into a bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until it reaches stiff peaks. Fold in cream cheese mixture. Spoon into crust. Cover pie, and chill 4 hours before serving. Sprinkle toasted almonds on top just before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chocolate Swoon Bars

These chocolatey bars of ooey-gooeyness are delicious! They are dense, rich, and chewy. Did I mention they have chocolate chips on top? Oh, well then - they have chocolate chips on top!

The method of making these is different than most bars. They take a little more time to whip up, but the results are so worth it. Swoon...

Chocolate Swoon Bars

Adapted from this recipe

Makes 24 bars

2 cups light brown sugar, packed (or honey sucanat)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla or vanilla-butter-nut extract

2 cups flour (or 10 oz Soft White wheat flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 (12 oz) bag milk chocolate chips

1 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Set aside

Combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl. Set aside

Place paddle attachment on stand mixer, or beaters on hand mixer. Have ready to use.

In a small bowl, mix together eggs and extract. Set aside.

Combine brown sugar and butter together in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until bubbly. Stirring constantly, cook for an additional three minutes at same heat. (You don't want caramel, just the sugar to be barely dissolved).

Remove from heat and stir for one minute. Pour into stand mixer bowl, (or other heat-proof bowl if using hand mixer). Mix on low for about three minutes. Increase speed to medium. Mix for two minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. (The mixture should be warm, but not molten).

Slowly add egg mixture (you don't want the eggs to cook). The batter should be shiny and light brown. Mix until eggs are fully incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed.

Add flour until just incorporated. Add chocolate chips and mix for about 30 seconds. The chocolate should mostly melt into the batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes (Mine took closer to 40 minutes). Remove from oven and sprinkle with one cup chocolate chips (feel free to use more, to fill in the gaps). Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. Enjoy!